AlteredCarbon, Two For the Price of One

March 9, 2018

Supergirl and I recently watched the Netflix adaptation of AlteredCarbon, a noir-cyberpunk-detective novel written by Richard K. Morgan, and as often happens when we watch something of the quality of that adaptation, I jumped to Amazon at the end of the last episode and bought the book. And you get to reap the rewards! Two reviews, two reviews, two reviews in one! Double the pleasure, double the fun, and all that.

I’ll start with our introduction to AC: the series by Netflix. I recently read a professional review of Errant Gods (forthcoming) that started with “Wow!” and think that’s appropriate here.

Wow! What a production! The series was created by Laeta Kalogridis, the ridiculously talented screenwriter of Alexander, Nightwatch, Shutter Island (one of my favorites), and Terminator: Genisys (along with Patrick Lussier). The production quality amazed me, with each episode seeming like a full-blown movie budget. The book was very imaginative (more below), but the Ms. Kalogridis turned it up to eleven. The Hendrix became The Raven, and the AI’s blossomed into full-blown characters in and of themselves. A great example of this “elevening” is The Raven itself. The detail and production design put into this AI-cum-hotel was exceptional, and only added to the immersion and engagement of the show for me.

The casting…oh the casting! Let’s see… Joel Kinnaman as Takeshi Kovacs (Ko-vach — don’t you day mispronounce it!), the veritable James Purefoy as Laurens Bancroft, Martha Higareda as Kristin Ortega, Kristin Lehman as Miriam Bancroft, Ato Essandoh as Vernon Elliot, Renée Elise Goldsberry as Quellcrist Falconer (wait for it book fans!), and Dichen Lachman as Reileen Kawahara…talk about stepping up to the plate and swinging for the fences! The cast stepped into what was created by the screenplay and the production design and brought it all to life without a hitch. My favorites were Joel Kinnaman and James Purefoy, but there are roles in this show that prove the actors that play them. I don’t want to give anything away, but let’s just say that many of these fine actors got to stretch their thespian legs in unexpected ways (unless you’ve read the book).

I’m glad we watched the series before I read the book, and that’s not the usual case for me. But in this case, the changes wrought to the storyline served to make the show that much better but had I read the book first, it may have been distracting. Don’t get me wrong, all of the essential scenes are there, but there is a whole new layer added by the screenplay–and for once, the changes didn’t seem random! If you haven’t seen this yet, put it in your watchlist–you won’t be disappointed.

Without further ado, on to the book.

This is a longest (but in a good way) book, that has an incredible amount of detail. The characterization is top notch, as is the description. Action scenes are pretty good (say 4/5). There are enough twists in this for a contortionist to retire on. You should read this book. No, really. Read it.

Yes, the storyline is different in many details from the show, but the essentials are the same, and in a way, it was nice to have those differences. It made reading the book more than an exercise of replacing splendid imagery and acting with the product of my imagination and Mr. Morgan’s words. As I watched the show, I remember thinking how marvelously detailed it was. As I read the book, I learned why.

So…two reviews for the price of one. My recommendation: Watch it then read it, but if you’ve already read the book (or the series), then watch it anyway and get ready to see the story explode on the screen.